Sanqing Theatre is located at No. 18, Dashilan Street of Qianmen, originally called “Banquet Joy” (yan le ju) during the Qianlong period, and later renamed as Sanqing (or “three celebrations”) Theatre in 1796 as it accommodates one of the four troupes of Anhui Opera, the Sanqing Troupe. Together with Guangde, Guanghe, Qingle, they are the four most recognized opera houses in Beijing. Famous opera figures such as Cheng Changgeng, Tan Xinpei, Shang Xiaoyun, Yu Shuyan and Ma Lianliang have all performed in Sanqing Theatre. In 1921, Mr. Mei Lanfang performed “A Wisp of Flax” here wearing innovative Peking Opera costume.
Chairman of Sanqing Theatre – Li Yongsheng
This is a stage photo of Mr. Mei Lanfang performing “A Wisp of Flax” in Sanqing Theatre at that time. Opera was always about innovation. A Peking Opera figure was able to attract followers and supporters partially because he had something unique to himself.
In 1950, Sanqing Theatre was suspended due to safety hazards after years without maintenance, and has since been transformed into a commercial shop. In 2013, the theatre was restored to its original look back in 1905 according to the old photos from 1929 and the construction drawing in 1960 by the Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture of Tsinghua University.
Reporter: This is the photo from 1929?
Li Yongsheng: Yes. It was a photo from the Morning Post newspaper at the time. The present entrance gate took reference of the photo, after it was edited by cultural relics expert Mr. Wang Shiren. The columns are in dark green, because that was the original color in the old days.
In 2016, the old opera house of Sanqing Theatre was re-opened at its original location on Dashilan Commercial Street. Today’s Sanqing Theatre has a construction area of about 1,600 square meters, with two floors above ground and two below ground, featuring an arch entrance, a corridor, a patio, and the performance area. The audience zone features pool seats, corridor seats, VIP seats and box seats. The place looks elegant and offers a pleasant environment.
Li Yongsheng: This is the backdrop of the stage, it has a giant kylin on it which we call Shou Jiu. Every theatre has a distinctive backdrop like this. It’s just like the brand logo of the theatre.
Reporter: I see, so this is your logo then?
Li Yongsheng: Yes, it’s the mascot of our theatre, conveying the meaning of good luck.
After re-opening, the Sanqing Theatre regularly holds traditional opera performances and crosstalk shows to entertain its audiences. At the same time, it promotes the national treasure of Peking Opera by exhibiting old photos and historical materials, so that visitors can appreciate the culture of opera houses and the profound history of Peking Opera.
Ms. Wang (audience): You feel very strongly this sense of the times, as if you are suddenly pulled back to that time, where you could apricate the legacies of our forefathers up close.
Ms. An (audience): Appreciating traditional opera in such a time-honored theatre, I think it’s a fitting way to pay tribute to this form of performing art.
Since its reopening in 2016, Sanqing Theatre has given more than 2,000 shows of crosstalk, attracting an average of 150 audience each show. Besides, the theatre hosted more than 140 activities of all sizes, including 56 cultural activities, 53 opera shows, 17 operatic performances, and 14 party building activities, with an average turnout of 120 people.
Chairman of Sanqing Theatre: Li Yongsheng
In the next five years, we’ll focus on crosstalk and Peking Opera shows, promote traditional culture, explore the history and tell the story of Sanqing Theatre and Peking Opera, come up with some derivatives, and leverage new technologies and marketing tools to constantly enrich our offerings and travel a sound path of steady development.